Writing a Thesis During Interterm, or The Miniature Trebuchet

Some of you wonder what us thesis-writing seniors do all day – do we really spend hours buried in the C-Level catacombs peering into dusty tomes, or are we actually telling you all this so that we can have some free time to play video games and order calzones?  Actually, it’s a little of both – and therefore, the best of both worlds.  For all the hell that my thesis has put me through (and it really has dragged me down there quite some distance), it’s been entirely worth the trouble, one semester through.  I know some people, namely Political Science and History majors, have different thesis requirements and actually have to be done with a draft right now.  Crazy.  My hat is off to those students.  But as a lowly Religion major, what have I been doing all fall?  What am I doing now, with oodles of free time?  Is the fact that I only have two “class-time” classes this spring a joke, or will it be necessary?

To keep things simple, here’s what I’ve done today:

7:30: Woke up.  The alarm didn’t go off, but I know the sound of a shovel scraping asphalt when I hear it, and I shot straight out of bed to see…sleet.

7:32: Realized that the walk to the Writing Center was going to be terrible.

8:07: Actually got out of bed.  My girlfriend was mostly dressed already.

8:24: Went back to my room in Hitchcock to get proper attire and a few books.  I was walking in the opposite direction of Charles Pratt.

8:35: Left Hitchcock and briefly considered going to Starbucks and getting coffee for me and my girlfriend.  Realized that walking on any pitch was going to be dangerous and decided to shuffle-slide across the street onto campus.

8:56: Finally made it to Charles Pratt, despite the wind blowing my umbrella inside-out in front of the library and the sleet making my hair freeze.

9:00: Coffee in hand, began my thesis-writing.  I had to re-write my introduction – doesn’t seem daunting, except I realized the information was coming from a book I hadn’t opened in over a month.  Start taking notes.

9:26: I need a different book.  Look outside, and decide to work with what I have.

10:55: I just worked for such a long time! And I…took a lot of notes.

12:00: Thesis writing is over for the morning.  I read one hundred and fifty pages and took some notes.  I also ate an apple.  I am not sure if my writing or my digestive system was more productive.

12:34: At 1-2-3-4 time I was eating a carefully-crafted salad at Val.

1:15-3: I lay in bed with my girlfriend and discussed plans for the weekend, job options, and anxiety.  But really, I’m quite happy with my life overall.

3:18: Began Insanity with Shaun T.

4:00: Felt appropriately insane.  Also dehydrated and sweaty.  Thanks, Shaun T.

4:30: Finally had energy to shower.  I realized I should have started my thesis reading for the afternoon.

4:55: After a long shower, I walked to A.J. Hastings and bought some more art supplies.  I should have read my thesis book.

5:20: Dinner time!  I ate too many pakoras.

6:40: I stayed at Val for a long time, talking and nibbling on lettuce like a hamster.  Decide to clean my room when I get home, because of course one’s room must be clean to get any reading done.

8:00: I finished cleaning a long time ago, and…wait…drew pictures and listened to music.  I need to work on my thesis.

9:00: Crap.  I didn’t write my She-Bomb post.

9:47: I am writing this line.

As of right now, I still haven’t worked on my thesis since the morning.  I am going to finish this post and then watch an episode of Mad Men, which is not at all related to my thesis.  Finally, after Mad Men, I will read until I fall asleep.

Is this a bad thing?  Shouldn’t I be writing all day, working until my fingers fall off and my eyes bleed?  I don’t think so.  The thing about theses is that no thesis can be compared to another.  So while there are certainly people working on their theses right now, and while I could be working on my thesis right now, I choose to do other things.  If I worked on my thesis all day, I would be insane.  Even three straight hours, uninterrupted by email or my cell phone, is taxing.  I feel truly worn out afterward.  But when the semester starts, and I have two regular classes alongside my thesis, providing me with regular intervals of work, I will be in the “work mode” much more regularly.  It won’t be so hard to pick up a book or write a few pages every day.  And my thesis will get done.  Sometimes (ok, often) I worry that I might never finish it.  I worry that there is just too much information for me to learn before I can write something influential and meaningful.  But when I’m not worried, I love my thesis.

I am incredibly grateful for the chance Amherst has given me to study something incredibly carefully and closely.  I feel like I am learning more about Japanese pilgrimage than anything else I’ve ever learned about.  And because I got to choose my topic, it is something I’m passionate about, so research doesn’t even really feel like work.  It’s closer to pleasure reading and journaling, except this kind of journaling has footnotes.  But it’s not all that bad.  I encourage all students to consider writing theses, if only because they provide a level of learning that even an Amherst class can’t replicate.  It’s been a wonderful fall, and I can’t wait to get back into it in the spring.

Instead of writing my thesis, I am going to build a miniature trebuchet that I received for Christmas.  Otherwise I won’t ever do it, and I have been looking forward to flinging things across my room.  My thesis will come – it’s something I enjoy, and I needn’t worry about it, even though it’s more work than I’ve ever done in my life.